What’s the Hitch?

Eddy's got answers on catching rides, smelly gear and epic canoe trips

Illustration courtesy of Aaron McKinney

Ask Eddy, the beloved boating guru in Canoe & Kayak’s print magazine, has come to life on the website. This story featured in the May 2007 issue and was written by Frederick Reimers and Sam Moulton.

I’m concerned about safety. When paddling with my wife, should I hitchhike the shuttle even though she gets rides three times faster than I do?

The adventurer’s life is filled with dilemmas: Whether to flaunt the spirit of wilderness by bringing a satellite phone, trespass private land to float a public waterway, or to raid the unattended hotel maid cart for dozens of tiny shampoo bottles. Granted, creepy sex offenders in tint-window vans are a lot more dangerous than angry hotel maids, but give your wife a little credit. First, she’s married to you, so she’s obviously used to fending off slack-jawed chumps. Second, she’s a paddler, so she’s clearly able to make her own decisions. As Mrs. Eddy, a veteran shuttle hitcher, says, “I don’t feel like I have to take every ride that’s offered. If someone sketchy pulls over, I’ll just say ‘no thanks.’” Plus, it’s a lot more chivalrous to let your wife ride in the warm, dry car while you wait with the boats in the pouring rain. Of course, getting her a big honking river knife to wear prominently on her PFD isn’t a bad idea either.

Why is my polypro smell so damn bad? And do those expensive “no-stink”
baselayers work?

Biodiesel cars consume oil and smell like French fries; Eddy consumes apple fritters and turkey jerky and smells like, well, Prince’s hotpants. At least his paddling gear does. See, synthetic baselayers are incubators for bacteria-laden sweat. To combat the problem, gear companies treat their fancier stuff with silver ions and natural amino acid chains, which bond with the bacteria and slow the funk-breeding process. These treatments work at first, but it’s a losing battle. Your bacteria might become resistant to the stuff, or just overpower it. A better way to go, especially if you’re heading out on a longer trip, is to get yourself some merino wool baselayers. Everyone makes them nowadays—Smartwool, Ibex, Icebreaker, and even Patagonia. It costs more—up to twice as much—and isn’t quite as good at wicking moisture away from your skin, but unlike the synthetic fabrics, wool is naturally anti-microbial. Same thing for clothing made from coconut shells. Yes, coconut shells. Companies like Sierra Designs, Golite and Royal Robbins are making base layers made with Cocona, a coconut husk by-product. You won’t smell like Waikiki, but its better than the odor of rancid cheese curds.

What’s the longest canoe trip of all time?

Other than the time Eddy tagged along on the Lincoln High All-star Polka Review annual canoe outing, it has to be Verlen Kruger and Steve Landick’s Ultimate Canoe Challenge. The pair set off on the Missouri in April, 1980, then paddled up the Illinois River, across the Great Lakes, down the Eastern Seaboard, around Florida, and then up the Mississippi to the Missouri. Then they kept going—all the way to Alaska by September 1981. And going: Down the Pacific, around the tip of Baja California, and up the Colorado River, portaging most of the Grand Canyon. Then they paddled home, reaching Michigan nearly three years and 28,000 miles after they began. When they got there, Verlen’s wife had filed for divorce.

I haven’t heard much about acid rain in Northeast lakes lately. Is it still a problem?

Like break-dancing, The A-Team, and all other sorts of stuff from the 70s and 80s, acid rain kind of slipped out of our consciousness. But unlike Dan Quayle, it’s still a problem. According to Dr. Gene Likens of the Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y., acid rain remains a major environmental issue. The 1990 Clean Air Act helped reduce the sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides emissions, but rain and snow in the east remain 5-8 times more acidic than they should be, Likens says. Worse, “because large amounts of calcium and magnesium have been leached out of the soil, the buffering capacity of forest soils has been greatly reduced from the impact of acid rain over the last 50 years or so.” That’s the bad news. The good news is that you can do something about it. While some Scandinavians have poured bags of lime into their fragile lakes to help neutralize the acid, that’s a stopgap solution at best. Better to reduce your pollution emissions by conserving energy, or for more direct action, buy someone a Carbon Credit Gift Pack from MoonEstates.com for $40—removing 100 kilos of greenhouse gases from the amount that polluting industries in Europe are allowed to emit under the Kyoto Treaty. (Eddy’s referring you to a European company because the United States never ratified the treaty. But guess what? We’re all on the same planet.) A cool gift, though not nearly as much fun to open as the big honking river knife.

Got a question for Eddy? Send your questions to: AskEddy@canoekayak.com.

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